The Judgment of the Living Nations

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We would now consider for a few moments the well-known passage in Matt. 25:3131When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31) to end; namely, the judgment of the sheep and the goats. Hundreds of God's people read this chapter under the impression that it teaches, as they say, the doctrine of the general judgment. Let us examine it in dependence upon the Spirit of God.
It is very commonly supposed that this is the description of a scene which will take place at the end of the world's history, when all shall stand before God to be judged for their sins, the sheep being, it is said, the Christians, and the goats the unconverted.
Now, in order the better to understand this passage, we would call the reader's serious attention to the most important subject of the second coming of Christ. Deeply interesting as this subject is, we cannot do more than refer to it now, in order to remind the Christian reader that in the New Testament this great and solemn event is spoken of in two ways: in the first place Jesus will come into the air for His saints, in order to take them home to Himself to His Father's house (John 14:2,32In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2‑3); 1 Thess. 4:1313But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) to end); and, secondly, He will come with His saints to the earth to judge the world. We may here mention that in the Old Testament while the coming of the Lord is frequently spoken of, it is always His corning with His saints in judgment to the earth. His coming for His saints into the air is never once referred to in the Old Testament. (Jude 1414And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 14),15 Zech. 14:1-61Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 6And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: (Zechariah 14:1‑6).) These are not exactly two events, but two stages of the same event, separated by an interval of time.
The first of these may take place at any moment. (1 Cor. 15:51-5551Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:51‑55); Rev. 22:2020He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)) When He comes for His saints, He comes not as their judge, but as their Savior. (Phil. 3:20,2120For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20‑21).) He comes not to execute vengeance on them, but to receive them to Himself in the Father's house. (John 14:2,32In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2‑3).) Those that have slept through Jesus shall be raised in glory (1 Thess. 4:13-1813But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13‑18); 1 Cor. 15:43,5243It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: (1 Corinthians 15:43)
52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)
), and the living saints (you and I, perhaps, dear fellow-believer) shall be changed in a moment, and "be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (Phil. 3:2121Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:21); 1 John 3:22Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2).) Moreover, when He comes for His saints, He comes not to the earth, but into the air. (1 Thess. 4:1717Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17).)
On the other hand, when He comes with His saints, He comes to execute judgment on the ungodly. (2 Thess. 1:7-117And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; 10When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. 11Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: (2 Thessalonians 1:7‑11); Jude 1414And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, (Jude 14),15.) He then comes to the earth; "His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives... and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee." (Zech. 14:1-61Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. 6And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: (Zechariah 14:1‑6).) While there is nothing to hinder His coming for His saints this very day, there are many prophecies yet to be fulfilled, and many events yet to take place, before He comes with them in judgment. And we may also add that much will take place on the earth between His coming for His saints and His coming with them.
Now, returning once more to Matt. 25:3131When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31), we shall easily see that it is to the second of these stages that the Lord Jesus refers. It is very helpful in understanding the passage to notice that from Matt. 24:32 to Matt. 25:3131When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31) may be treated as a parenthesis. The early part of Matt. 24, is a remarkable prophecy of events that are yet to take place in connection with the Jews. As we have before observed, the Lord may come at any moment for His saints, and then, when we are at home in the Father's house in glory, God will once more begin to deal with the Jewish nation on the earth.